The Eric Greitens conundrum
On August 2, Missouri Republicans will go to the ballot box to determine who will be their nominee to replace outgoing Republican senator Roy Blunt. Twenty-one Republicans are running for the nomination, but according to the polls, the top three candidates are Eric Greitens, Eric Schmitt, and Vicky Hartzler. Since the start of the primary, polling has consistently shown Greitens ahead of his two rivals. This is a cause for concern among Missouri Republicans and their donors. While "Inside Elections" has this race rated as a "Solid R," Republicans fear that a Greitens nomination could lead to a surprise Democratic upset.
Eric Greitens won the 2016 gubernatorial race but served only until June 1, 2018. He resigned in disgrace due to sexual misconduct and illegal use of campaign funds. In addition, he was accused of domestic violence this past spring by his ex-wife. To make matters worse, Greitens released an ad at the end of June that depicted him breaking into a house with hunting friends all decked out in military gear to go "RINO" hunting. "Get a RINO hunting permit. There's no bagging limit, no tagging limit, and it doesn't expire until we save our country," he concludes. Social media flagged the ad, but it is still up as public information.
A political action committee called the Show Me Values PAC is running ads to prevent a Greitens victory. According to the FEC reports, Show Me Values has spent close to $4 million since its inception on June 2, with $3.5 million paid to air ads highlighting Greiten's record a variety of issues, from selling out to China to family abuse. The PAC's most significant donor is Rex Sinquefield, a noted Missouri GOP donor and real estate investor. Governor Pete Ricketts of Nebraska also gave $250,000 to the PAC. "He's not fit to be in office," said Ricketts of Greitens.
The GOP establishment is divided on whom to support against Greitens. Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler has received key endorsements from the Missouri establishment, such as the Missouri Cattlemen's Association, Missouri Farm Bureau, and U.S. senator Josh Hawley. "Vicky is someone who I'm confident has the integrity, the character, and the toughness to do this job," said Hawley. Former president Donald Trump has yet to make an endorsement but has made it clear that he will not endorse Hartzler for her criticisms of his remarks on the attack on the Capitol on January 6.
Attorney General Eric Schmitt is in good standing to receive a Trump endorsement, which would likely give him the boost he needs to defeat Eric Greitens. As attorney general of Missouri, Schmitt has fought the Biden administration on overreach and school districts that have put mask mandates in effect. Schmitt recently received endorsements from Trump acolytes such as former acting attorney general Matt Whitaker, former Florida attorney general and Trump lawyer Pam Bondi, and former Trump press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. "Few elected officials in the country have done more to block Joe Biden's assault on our country as diligently and fiercely as Eric Schmitt," remarked Sanders.
A recent poll released by Trafalgar Group shows momentum swinging away from Greitens and toward Schmitt, with Schmitt leading Greitens from 27% to 20% and Hartzler in the middle with 24%. Missouri Scout has Schmitt with a wider lead at 32% and Greitens coming again in third at 18% with 10% undecided. While Trump has praised Greitens as "smart" and a "fighter," he also said his scandals make him "the one the Democrats legitimately want to run against." With still so many undecided before August 2, lower-tier Republican candidates will have to drop out of the race, or Republican voters will have to rally around Schmitt to block a margin-of-error win for Greitens.
With a 50/50 Senate balance, Republican voters must choose the path of least resistance and ensure that Eric Greitens doesn't become the nominee. Democrats would love to deflect President Biden's 31% approval rating and focus on former Governor Greitens's moral shortcomings. This primary is not a purity test for Republicans, but one of the ethical principles over politics.
Image: US Coast Guard Academy.